How Important is Water?As we all know, water is essential for mankind’s survival. However, people seem to believe that our water supply is endless since there is more water than land on this Earth. Water regenerates and is redistributed through evaporation, making it seem endlessly renewable. So why worry?Actually, only one percent of the world’s water has the capability of being used by us. About ninety-seven percent is salty seawater, and two percent is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. That only leaves one percent of the precious water that is to be used by not only people, but used by animals, plants, and food. Dehydration, which is the lack of water, will kill us faster than starvation, which is the lack of food. Since the plants and animals we eat also depend on water, lack of it could cause both dehydration and starvation. Water that looks drinkable can contain harmful elements, which could cause illness and death if ingested (Kreger, 2004).
To further deplete our water scarce supply, natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes, pose a great peril. However, one natural disaster stands above the rest. This natural disaster is called a drought. Drought, in my opinion, is the worst natural disaster of all. It not only affects us with a dry weather and uncomfortable heat waves, it also affects agriculture, and even drastically change the way we live about (Kreger, 2004).
That is why I, as a concerned Californian and fellow inhabitant of Earth, urge people today to conserve water to combat the evils of drought. We, as people, must think of not only how this will affect us. But how it will affect our children- and even grandchildren. I would not like to merely “ask” people to conserve water; I would like to enforce them to do so. Without water conservation, our limited water supply will diminish over time.
What is a Drought?Drought, like a destructing earthquake or flood, is a natural disaster. Drought is an insidious hazard to nature. It results from a deficiency of precipitation over a long period of time over an area. Precipitation is any kind of moisture like rain, snow, and sleet. One can determine how malicious a drought can be by the amount of precipitation, and how long it is (Rupert, 2006).
What Are the Causes of Drought?Although the main reason a drought occurs is the lack of precipitation, it is also caused by other factors. High pressure is one of the main contributors of drought. Although a high-pressure system brings clear, cool weather, if the high-pressure system continues for a long period of time, this will eventually lead to a drought (Wikipedia, 2007).
Another factor that contributes to the causes of drought is the lack of oceanic air mass. Most dry land is given a nice breeze of water by oceanic winds. However, if these winds are not strong enough to get the evaporated water to the dry lands, these lands will lack the moisture they desperately need (Wikipedia, 2007).
Deforestation is known to be the destruction of forests and woodlands. It is also one of the causes that lead up to drought. Deforestation increases the risk of drought by taking all of the groundwater from soil, which they heavily depend on to stay healthy (Collins, 2001).
What Are the Effects of a Drought?Most people believe that a drought is not as bad as a hurricane or a tsunami. That is correct. A drought is much more worst than any of those! A drought not only affects the specific region’s ecosystem, it impacts the individuals living in the area of and the people living across the country just the same.
Drought produces a large number of impacts that affects the social, environmental, and economical way we live our lives. Its affects spread far beyond the effects of the drought alone. Water is essential to produce goods and provide certain services. Some direct impacts of drought are: reduced crop, rangeland, and forest productivity, reduced water levees, increased fire hazard, increased livestock and wildlife deaths, and damage to wildlife and fish habitat. These impacts produce a “domino effect.” For example, a reduction in crop productivity usually results in less income for farmers, increased prices for food, unemployment, and migration (Think Quest, 2004).
Farmers are not the only ones who suffer from droughts. Businessmen who provide goods and services to farmers must deal with reduced business. This later leads to unemployment and loss of money for the government. The recreational and tourism industries are also affected because tourists do not want to travel to a country that is suffering from a severe water shortage. The shortage of water may lead to the shortage of certain goods results in the costly importation of necessary goods from outside the affected area (Think Quest, 2004).
Environmental losses are caused by damages to plant and animal species. Wildlife habitat, and air and water quality are usually damaged due to a lack of water and an increase in forest and range fires. For example, wildlife habitat may be ruined through the loss of wetlands, lakes, and vegetation. Some species of animals may be wiped out from the area as well (Think Quest, 2004).
Another way drought can affect people is socially. When a precious commodity like water is in short supply due to drought, and the lack of water creates a lack of food, people will compete to secure enough water to survive. Faced with the other impacts of drought, many people will flee a drought-stricken area in search of a new home with a better supply of water, enough food, and without the disease and conflict that were present in the place they are leaving (West, 2007).
Droughts: Three Stages of DangerThere are three different stages of drought in which they are ordered. The first of the stages is meteorological drought. This is brought when there is lack of precipitation. The second stage is the agricultural drought, which are droughts that may affect crop production and farms. This stage is also brought on by the lack of precipitation. The final stage of drought is the hydrological drought. This drought is the most critical because it begins to affect our water reservoirs. The final stage is not only dangerous for the impact on our water reservoirs, but because it may lead so social and economic unrest (Wikipedia, 2007).
A meteorological drought is usually known on the degree of dryness and the duration of the dry period. Definitions of meteorological drought are varied since precipitation levels vary from place to place. The definition of a meteorological drought in Brazil is different from a meteorological drought in Los Angeles because it hardly ever rains in Los Angeles. A meteorological drought also depends on the regions climate pattern. Other climatic regimes are characterized by a seasonal rainfall pattern, such as the central United States, northern Australia, and West Africa (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2006).
The second stage of drought, agricultural drought, links various characteristics of meteorological drought to agricultural impacts. These impacts include: lack of precipitation, and reduced ground water. Plants depend water from specific weather conditions. The water these plants and crops all lack would lead to soil inadequacy. If this occurs, malnutrition, and famine would thrive because crop production would decrease. This not only affects the consumers- us- but it also affects our economy (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2006).
If a drought continues long enough, it might become a hydrological drought. This is caused by the lack of precipitation in water supplies. During a hydrological drought, the scarcity of water may lead to potential feuds over what little water is left and restrictions might be put on people’s water usage. It takes longer for lack precipitation to show up in components stream flow, ground water, and reservoir levels. Changes in land, like deforestation, and construction of dams, change the hydrological characteristics of a river basin (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2006).
The Dust BowlDuring the 1930’s, a series of droughts plagued the Great Plains. However, the “Dust Bowl” was not named after a drought. It was named for what it did. Poor agricultural practices and years of sustained drought caused the Dust Bowl. Plains grasslands had been deeply plowed and planted to wheat. During the years when there was adequate rainfall, the land produced bountiful crops. But as the droughts of the early 1930s deepened, the farmers kept plowing and planting and nothing would grow. The ground cover that held the soil in place was gone. The Plains winds whipped across the fields raising billowing clouds of dust to the skies. The skies could darken for days, and even the most well sealed homes could have a thick layer of dust on furniture. In some places the dust would drift like snow, covering farms. With the farmers lands destroyed and homes seized in foreclosure, many farm families were forced to leave (Rutherford, 1998).
Dust storms carried millions of tons of dirt from one location to the next. Those caught in the middle of dust storms were left with either damaged lungs or death due to inhalation of dust in the air they were breathing and polluted water they were drinking. High-speed winds pushed grains of dust into things such as farm equipment, barns, and homes. Cars were damaged beyond repair because of sand and dust clogging up vital parts of the engine. The largest migration of American history was during this period. Over 2.5 million people left the Dust Bowl area headed west for California (Rutherford, 1998).
The Dust Bowl not only affect agriculture, it also had an impact on the economy. The economy in the 1930’s was only hindered, if not worsened, by the Dust Bowl. Farmers were already in deep trouble for overproduction, but the Dust Bowl made it even harder too sell their crops because they were underground. They could not sell their crops, hence, they could not pay their banks to keep their homes or even make profit (Rutherford, 1998).
Responding to a Cry for HelpThe Dust Bowl was basically an ultimate example of what could happen to an area when the climate was misunderstood, and poor farming practices were used. However, people became more aware out of this experience. Many preventative measures were taken to ensure that something of this magnitude would not occur again. These measures have consisted of everything from finding new water sources to taking better care of the soil to controlling the amount of topsoil blown away by the wind (Thompson, 1998, 297-299).
After it was discovered that the certain areas of the Great Plains did not receive as much rain as first thought, the farmers looked somewhere else for a source of water. Irrigation soon became an important means of providing water for the crops. The main source of irrigation for the Great Plains is the Ogallala Aquifer. The Ogallala Aquifer had been there all the time, but before the Twentieth Century the farmers lacked the technology to make use of it. Eventually they were able to dig wells deep enough. The first well was dug in 1911, and was less than 50 feet deep. However, the pump was invented which allowed for deeper wells, and greater flows of water. Eventually a form of irrigation called center pivot irrigation was developed. The idea was that the water was pumped out of the ground at one point in the middle of the field, and distributed by a sprinkler system that pivoted around the center point (Thompson, 1998, 297-299).
Shortly after the Dust Bowl had an impact on the nation as a whole, the government, under President Roosevelt, began to initiate a serious of measures aimed to cure the damages caused by the Dust Bowl. These programs also became part of his “New Deal” initiative.
One of the most famous projects started as a response to the Dust Bowl was the Tennessee Valley Authority, or the TVA. Like the most areas surrounding the Dust Bowl affected areas, the Tennessee Valley was hard hit by the sudden drought. The Tennessee Valley Authority was viewed as an opportunity to take natural resources to promote social and agricultural change. The TVA hired workers to construct multi-purpose dams, improve channels, teach soil conservation, and take on watershed reforestation project. The dams constructed by the TVA provided poor farmers and civilians with cheap electricity, flood control, and improved navigation of channels and rivers (Thompson, 1998, 297-299).
The Dust Bowl taught farmers new farming methods and techniques. The 1930’s fostered a new era of soil conservation. Perhaps the most valuable lesson learned form the Dust Bowl – take care of the land. Droughts and winds still cause many problems, but most are averted and minimized with proper soil conservation. But one must ask themselves one question, will history repeat itself?Drought: TodayLos Angeles is currently in a dilemma. It is experiencing its very own drought. Since July 2006, downtown Los Angeles has received less than four inches of rain. This summer is expected to be hotter than last summer, which killed about one- hundred people last year from intense heat waves. This year’s drought is the driest in over 130 yeas in bookkeeping, which is worst than the drought that occurred in the 1970’s (Becerra, 2007).
However, we have learned, from the past, absolutely nothing. People who live actually use even more water than they did before they were told to try not use as much. The Department of Water and Power does not enforce its regulations that forbid watering of lawns during the day and no running car- washing hoses. Now, instead of a fine, the DWP send a violator a letter asking them politely to “consider” conserving water in the future. Recently, the mayor has asked us- Angelinians- to conserve water. That should help the problem (Morrison, 2007). That is why it is up to us to save our planet from the depletion of our remaining water sources- not the states.
Ways to Conserve WaterThe most important step in water conservation is that people must realize that they are in a crisis that demands the conservation of water. Without this, people will not have any incentive to conserve water because they would believe that it is trivial to do so.
There are many ways to conserve water today because of our technological advances. Desalination of ocean water is one of the most common ways to conserve water. This method uses machines to purify and filter out any excess of salt and minerals to the point in which it is safe to drink. Like recycled water, this too can e used to feed livestock and used in irrigation techniques. This technique can also be used to produce a common household item- table salt (Wikipedia, 2007).
One easy way water is conserved is by harvesting rain. Even though it hardly rains in California, whatever little rain we capture may serve to feed livestock, irrigation, and provide for portable water supplies. Harvesting rainfall also prevents high water bills, and may render the building of reservoirs useless, which take up a lot of land (Wikipedia, 2007).
Some methods used to conserve water can sometimes be deemed controversial. A controversial way of water conservation is recycling water. Recycling water refers to the process of purifying wastewater from sewage places. Recycled water has many uses, which include the drinking of purified wastewater if it is clean enough. If it is not used for drinking, then it is used for irrigation, which promotes better plant fertilization, watering lawns, and even filling fountains with it. The recycled water is sometimes dumped into lakes, and ponds to replenish them with their loss water. With the increase in demands for more water, some places use purified water to drink and use for their everyday necessities (Wikipedia, 2007).
What Should WE Do to Conserve WaterMany people have a common misconception about water conservation. They believe that conserving water will actually COST them money. In reality, conserving water may SAVE them money. People can actually conserve water without actually knowing it. For example, shade trees can store gallons of water, which reduces the amount of water needed to use on them. They also hold water in their roots, which serve to distribute water throughout the lawn. The shade provided by these trees not only protects people from the sun, but the lawn it is on. This reduces the amount of water that is used to water it because the lawn does not get heated; hence, there is no need for watering of the lawn (University of Nebraska, 2003).
Other ways we can conserve water without going out of our everyday lives is from our homes. By fixing leaking pipes one can save up about twenty gallons of water a day and save one a hassle in water utility bills. Installing low- flow showerheads save up to 500 gallons a month, which is also helped by taking shorter showers. Using a broom instead of a hose to clean one’s driveway is another way of conserving water. When watering their lawn, people can avoid doing it when it is hot, like the afternoon, and water them during the morning. Washing a car on top of a lawn is a smart way to wash a car because run-on water is used to water the lawn while washing the car at the same time. During the summer, it can get hot. When filling a pool with water, place a cover over the pool once one is done using it to avoid evaporation of the water in it (University of Nebraska, 2003).
As one can tell, water conservation does save more money. The environment is not the only thing that benefits from conserving water, if anything; we are the ones who will thrive from it. Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water” (University of Nebraska, 2003). If we do not start to conserve water know, we will learn to appreciate water- the hard way.
Many people take abundance of water for granted and only in its absence do we realize just how important it is to every living thing on the planet. During a drought, it is very important that everyone does his or her best to conserve water. Of course, it shouldn’t take a drought to make people conserve water. Water is such an important resource and water conservation should be practiced every day of our lives. Water conservation consists of eliminating wasteful practices of water use, such as allowing a faucet to drip, toilets to leak, or taking baths instead of showers. Without water conservation, chaos and even war may erupt from feuds over water use and rights (Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, 2003, 10-11).
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